How to Ensure the Internet is Kid-Friendly and Safe
With the invention of the Internet came the opening of all kinds of doors in terms of entertainment, communication methods, and even the way in which we access information. If you’re a parent, then you understand better than anyone that the Internet can prove to be quite useful for the development of your child and to help with their schooling/learning. With that said, it’s important to encourage the safe use of the Internet where kids are concerned, and luckily there are a number of ways to do this.
Parents are running into this issue on a daily basis and that is why there are tools, safeguards, and all kinds of helpful information available to them about how they can make sure it’s safe for their kids to be online. The idea isn’t to take the Internet away from them, and discourage the use of it rather it is to foster a safe environment. Today, parents are more concerned than ever of kids encountering Internet predators, cyber bullying, and inappropriate content. After all, it’s not just teenagers accessing the Internet; today a large amount of toddlers have their very own tablet which means parents have to be vigilant from the start.
Access Has Increased
Where it used to be that kids would have to visit the designated computer lab at school just to have even five minutes of strict access to a computer with the Internet, today it seems to be everywhere. There are computers and tablets in the classroom, kids have smart devices at home, smart TVs, and even gaming consoles have online connectivity. Access to the Internet is everywhere, which can make monitoring it seem pretty difficult.
So, what is a parent, teacher, or caregiver to do? We’re going to take a look at a few different options that can help ensure the safe use of the Internet by kids.
Discuss What the Appropriate Use Is
First things first — if you want your child to be using the Internet in a safe and responsible way, then you need to explain what that means. The way the conversation is approached needs to be relevant to the child’s age. There’s a good chance you’ll have to repeat this conversation at regular intervals and provide reminders. Just expect this going in so you won’t be upset when it happens. Eventually, they will catch on and you’ll find yourself needing to remind them much less often.
Experts have suggested that talking to your kids from an early age about online safety is the best approach to take, so don’t be afraid to start at it young.
Discuss the Rules
Next, it is important you discuss the rules you want to be followed. It may be a good idea to write them out in a fun chart form, again as a reminder for kids. There may be rules about how long they can be online, they may not be allowed on social media sites, perhaps you want to tell them to steer clear of chat rooms and forums where there are strangers, and you may prevent them from posting photos and providing personal information. These are all very basic and wise rules for them to follow. You could even discuss the whole “stranger danger” concept and the fact it applies online as well.
Tools to Ensure Safety
Of course you can set up as many rules as you like and have multiple discussions, but when it comes down to it the safety tools offered are a fabulous route to take. It’s still important to educate your child about why you’re being cautious, but then go ahead and look into the various options out there. One route you might want to take is limit or restrict the websites your child is allowed to visit. You can actually block individual sites and then tie a password to them so without that password, kids can’t get to it. Another option is to block sites that relate to a keyword. This process is relatively easy to figure out on your own, and gives you lots of freedom about what sites you want to block.
Along the same lines, you can actually purchase software or install apps that work much the same way. They can restrict access to websites based on keywords. You can also key in words that you are allowing them to perform searches with. Some of these software options go so far as to alert you in real-time by an email notification should your child try to gain access to restricted content.
Many tablets now have a “kids mode” that is meant to provide parents with additional features, tools, and safety measures which makes online browsing all the safer. In fact, when shopping for a tablet this may be a feature you want to look for.
Additional Safety Measures
There are a handful of additional safety measures that experts suggest parents consider and these are:
- Blocking all in-app downloads and purchases. Not only will this ensure you don’t end up with a pricy bill for apps, it also ensures they aren’t downloading content they shouldn’t be. This of course refers to mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones.
- If you are passing down a tablet, notebook, laptop, or computer to your child a good rule of thumb is to perform a factory reset first. This is a simple and quick way to get rid of everything you’ve done on it.
- Think about installing a kid-friendly browser on your device such as the “kids mode” mentioned above.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Even after taking all the safety measures that the experts suggest, it still doesn’t replace the need to be aware of your child’s surfing activities. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your child and taking an active interest in what they are doing online is always the best approach.
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